Do you know the beautiful St Andrew’s Novena?
It goes like this:
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my petitions, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
Unlike most novenas which last nine days (hence the nov or ninth bit of novena), St Andrew’s Novena lasts 26 days from the last day of November, the feast day of St Andrew the Apostle, to Christmas itself. This is a super-charged novena though, because you don’t just pray it once a day. (“ONCE A DAY IS FOR THE WEAK”, quoth St Andrew.)
No, you pray it 15 times a day.
When I first heard about this novena, I found the 15 times a day thing discouraging. There’s no way I wouldn’t make it to fifteen. I might start strong but by lunchtime, I’d feel ready for a nap and it would be all over. Or I’d forget for the whole day and then feel obliged to pray it fifteen times right before bed. (Not that that would be a bad thing necessarily.)
But even if I could do, how could I keep count? Would I have to get a special Rosary made? Or find some other fancy counting method. Can’t you just see me touting a Christmas-themed abacus around Sydney so I can pray this novena? (Okay, it turns out there are special St Andrew Rosaries because Catholics and Etsy is the most beautiful partnership since St Gianna met Pietro Molla.)
Today, however, I learnt that I didn’t need to pray St Andrew’s Novena fifteen times every day, I could just pray it when I remembered. (A Dominican sister told me this so you know it’s legit.)
Like the quaintly named aspirations, you can pray this prayer when you remember God and just want to tell God you love Him. You can pray it when you wake up, when get on the bus or in the car, when you walk into Mass, when you eat dinner, before you pray the Rosary, or every time someone mentions the new Star Wars movie. I should give you fair warning though. If you pray every time someone mentions Star Wars, you’ll probably be praying more than fifteen times a day.
The point of “relaxing” the fifteen times a day idea isn’t to get away with as little as possible. It’s to allow us to participate in this beautiful devotion, making it easier for the weaker and more forgetful among us to sanctify every day and every moment of this Advent season.
The last thing we want is Advent to pass by in flurry of stress and busyness. We want to savour these grace-filled days. We want to prepare our hearts to adore the coming Christ, who has come once in the flesh and will come again in glory.
And who better to be our companion in Advent than St Andrew? St Andrew is one of my favourite Apostles and the patron saint of Scotland, although he never went anywhere near there. He was a humble and prayerful disciple of St John the Baptist who listened to the word of the prophet and went to follow Jesus, the Lamb of God. He went with Him and stayed the night, resting with our Lord. And then he brought his own brother, Simon Peter, to the longed for Messiah.
St Andrew is the model of evangelists, the self-effacing one who glorifies his Lord. He told his brother, “we have found the Messiah, that is, the Christ”. St John Chrysostom comments in today’s Office of Reading that,
Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others.
What more can we ask for this Advent?
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold!
May we be longing for the coming of the Christ, rejoicing when He does appear, and hastening to announce this great event to others.
St Andrew, pray for us!